Belgium

Belgium

Kingdom of Belgium
  • Koninkrijk België  (Dutch)
  • Royaume de Belgique  (French)
  • Königreich Belgien  (German)
Flaga Coat of arms
Motto: "Eendracht maakt macht" (Dutch)
"L'union fait la force" (French)
"Einigkeit macht stark" (German)
(literally, "Unity makes strength")
"Strength through Unity"
Anthem: "Brabançonne"
(instrumental version)
Location of  Belgium  (dark green)

– in Europe  (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (green)

Capital
and largest city
Brusselsb
Official languages Dutch, French, German
Ethnic groups see Demographics
Demonym Belgian
Government Federal parliamentary
constitutional monarchy[1]
 -  Monarch Philippe
 -  Prime Minister Charles Michel
Legislature Federal Parliament
 -  Upper house Senate
 -  Lower house Chamber of Representatives
Independence from the Netherlands
 -  Declared 4 October 1830 
 -  Recognised 19 April 1839 
 -  Founded the EEC (now the EU) 1 January 1958 
Area
 -  Total 30,528 km2 (140th)
11,787 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 6.4
Population
 -  1 February 2015 census 11,239,755[2] (75th)
 -  Density 363.6/km2 (23rd)
941.68/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2015 estimate
 -  Total $494.620 billion[3] (38th)
 -  Per capita $43,629[3] (20th)
GDP (nominal) 2015 estimate
 -  Total $458.651 billion[3] (23rd)
 -  Per capita $40,456[3] (17th)
Gini (2011) 26.3[4]
low
HDI (2013) Steady 0.881[5]
very high · 21st
Currency Euro () (EUR)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 -  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Drives on the right
Calling code 32
ISO 3166 code BE
Internet TLD .bec
a. The flag's official proportions of 13:15 are rarely seen; proportions of 2:3 or similar are more common.
b. The Brussels region is the de facto capital, but the City of Brussels municipality is the de jure capital
c. The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.

Belgium (; NATO.[nb 1] Belgium covers an area of 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 sq mi) and has a population of about 11 million people.

Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups: the Dutch-speaking, mostly Flemish community, which constitutes about 59% of the population, and the French-speaking, mostly Walloon population, which comprises 41% of all Belgians. Additionally, there is a small group of German-speakers (92000 people )who are officially recognized, and have legal representatives in parliament.Most of these citizens live in the 'Oostkantons' like Eupen, Malmedy an Sankt Vith located around the 'Hoge Venen'(Dutch)or 'Haute Fagnes'(French), and bordering Germany.

A last and very small group with a fourth language can be found in Vresse-Sur-Semois,one municipality (1!)were they speak Champenois, the local dialect in the champagne-area.The language is recognised by France and the Walloon's part of Belgium.

Belgium is a federal constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of governance. Its two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia. The Brussels-Capital Region, officially bilingual, is a mostly French-speaking enclave within the Flemish Region.[6] A German-speaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia.[7][8] Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political conflicts are reflected in its political history and complex system of government.[9][10]

Historically, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg were known as the Low Countries; it once covered a somewhat larger area than the current Benelux group of states. The region was called Belgica in Latin, after the Roman province of Gallia Belgica, which covered more or less the same area. From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, the area of Belgium was a prosperous and cosmopolitan centre of commerce and culture. From the 16th century until the Belgian Revolution in 1830, when Belgium seceded from the Netherlands, the area of Belgium served as the battleground between many European powers, causing it to be dubbed the "Battlefield of Europe,"[11] a reputation strengthened by both world wars.

Upon its independence, Belgium participated in the Industrial Revolution[12][13] and, during the course of the 20th century, possessed a number of colonies in Africa.[14] The second half of the 20th century was marked by rising tensions between the Dutch-speaking and the French-speaking citizens fueled by differences in language and the unequal economic development of Flanders and Wallonia. This continuing antagonism has led to several far-reaching reforms, resulting in a transition from a unitary to a federal arrangement during the period from 1970 to 1993. Despite the reforms, tensions between the groups remain; the formation of a coalition government took 18 months following the June 2010 federal election.[15]

Contents

  • History 1
  • Geography 2
    • Provinces 2.1
  • Politics 3
    • Political culture 3.1
    • Communities and regions 3.2
    • Locus of policy jurisdiction 3.3
    • Armed forces 3.4
  • Economy 4
    • Science and technology 4.1
    • Water supply and sanitation 4.2
  • Demographics 5
    • Languages 5.1
    • Education 5.2
    • Religion 5.3
    • Health 5.4
  • Culture 6
    • Fine arts 6.1
    • Folklore 6.2
    • Cuisine 6.3
    • Sports 6.4
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

History

Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, those who in their own language are called Celts, in ours Gauls, the third.

...Of all these, the Belgae are the strongest.

Julius Caesar, De Bello Gallico, Book I, Ch. 1

The name 'Belgium' is derived from Gallia Belgica, a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul that before Roman invasion in 100 BC, was inhabited by the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples.[16][17] A gradual immigration by Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century brought the area under the rule of the Merovingian kings. A gradual shift of power during the 8th century led the kingdom of the Franks to evolve into the Carolingian Empire.[18]

The Treaty of Verdun in 843 divided the region into Middle and West Francia and therefore into a set of more or less independent fiefdoms which, during the Middle Ages, were vassals either of the King of France or of the Holy Roman Emperor.[18]

Many of these fiefdoms were united in the Burgundian Netherlands of the 14th and 15th centuries.[19] Emperor Charles V extended the personal union of the Seventeen Provinces in the 1540s, making it far more than a personal union by the Pragmatic Sanction of 1549 and increased his influence over the Prince-Bishopric of Liège.[20]

The Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) divided the Low Countries into the northern United Provinces (Belgica Foederata in Latin, the "Federated Netherlands") and the Southern Netherlands (Belgica Regia, the "Royal Netherlands"). The latter were ruled successively by the Spanish and the Austrian Habsburgs and comprised most of modern Belgium. This was the theatre of most Franco-Spanish and Franco-Austrian wars during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Following the campaigns of 1794 in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Low Countries—including territories that were never nominally under Habsburg rule, such as the Prince-Bishopric of Liège—were annexed by the French First Republic, ending Austrian rule in the region. The reunification of the Low Countries as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands occurred at the dissolution of the First French Empire in 1815, after the defeat of Napoleon.

In 1830, the Belgian Revolution led to the separation of the Southern Provinces from the Netherlands and to the establishment of a Catholic and bourgeois, officially French-speaking and neutral, independent Belgium under a provisional government and a national congress.[21][22] Since the installation of Leopold I as king on 21 July 1831 (which is now celebrated as Belgium's National Day[23]), Belgium has been a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, with a laicist constitution based on the Napoleonic code. Although the franchise was initially restricted, universal suffrage for men was introduced after the general strike of 1893 (with plural voting until 1919) and for women in 1949.

Episode of the Belgian Revolution of 1830 (1834), by Egide Charles Gustave Wappers

The main political parties of the 19th century were the Catholic Party and the Liberal Party, with the Belgian Labour Party emerging towards the end of the 19th century. French was originally the single official language adopted by the nobility and the bourgeoisie. It progressively lost its overall importance as Dutch became recognized as well. This recognition became official in 1898 and in 1967 a Dutch version of the Constitution was legally accepted.[24]

The Berlin Conference of 1885 ceded control of the Congo Free State to King Leopold II as his private possession. From around 1900 there was growing international concern for the extreme and savage treatment of the Congolese population (millions of whom are thought to have died)[25] under Leopold II, for whom the Congo was primarily a source of revenue from ivory and rubber production. In 1908 this outcry led the Belgian state to assume responsibility for the government of the colony, henceforth called the Belgian Congo.[26]

European Union celebration in the Cinquantenaire Park in Brussels.

Germany invaded Belgium in 1914 as part of the Schlieffen Plan to attack France and much of the Western Front fighting of World War I occurred in western parts of the country. The opening months of the war were known as the Rape of Belgium due to German excesses. Belgium took over the German colonies of Ruanda-Urundi (modern-day Rwanda and Burundi) during the war, and they were mandated to Belgium in 1924 by the League of Nations. In the aftermath of the First World War, the Prussian districts of Eupen and Malmedy were annexed by Belgium in 1925, thereby causing the presence of a German-speaking minority.

The country was again invaded by Germany in 1940 and 40,690 Belgians, over half of them Jews, were killed during the subsequent occupation and The Holocaust. From September 1944 to February 1945 Belgium was liberated by the Allies. After World War II, a general strike forced King Leopold III, who many Belgians felt had collaborated with Germany during the war, to abdicate in 1951.[27] The Belgian Congo gained independence in 1960 during the Congo Crisis;[28] Ruanda-Urundi followed with its independence two years later. Belgium joined NATO as a founding member and formed the Benelux group of nations with the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Belgium became one of the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and of the European Atomic Energy Community and European Economic Community, established in 1957. The latter has now become the European Union, for which Belgium hosts major administrations and institutions, including the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the extraordinary and committee sessions of the European Parliament.

Geography

Relief map of Belgium

Belgium shares borders with France (620 km), Germany (167 km), Luxembourg (148 km) and the Netherlands (450 km). Its total area, including surface water area, is 30,528 square kilometres; land area alone is 30,278 km2.[29] It lies between latitudes 49°30 and 51°30 N, and longitudes 2°33 and 6°24 E.[30]

Belgium has three main geographical regions: the coastal plain in the north-west and the central plateau both belong to the Anglo-Belgian Basin; the Ardennes uplands in the south-east are part of the Hercynian orogenic belt. The Paris Basin reaches a small fourth area at Belgium's southernmost tip, Belgian Lorraine.[31]

Polders along the Yser river.

The coastal plain consists mainly of sand dunes and Eifel in Germany by the High Fens plateau, on which the Signal de Botrange forms the country's highest point at 694 metres (2,277 ft).[32][33]

The climate is maritime temperate with significant precipitation in all seasons (Köppen climate classification: Cfb), like most of northwest Europe.[34] The average temperature is lowest in January at 3 °C (37.4 °F) and highest in July at 18 °C (64.4 °F). The average precipitation per month varies between 54 millimetres (2.1 in) for February or April, to 78 mm (3.1 in) for July.[35] Averages for the years 2000 to 2006 show daily temperature minimums of 7 °C (44.6 °F) and maximums of 14 °C (57.2 °F) and monthly rainfall of 74 mm (2.9 in); these are about 1 °C and nearly 10 millimetres above last century's normal values, respectively.[36]

Phytogeographically, Belgium is shared between the Atlantic European and Central European provinces of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom.[37] According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of Belgium belongs to the ecoregion of Atlantic mixed forests.[38] Because of its high population density, its location in the centre of Western Europe and inadequate political effort, Belgium faces serious environmental problems. A 2003 report suggested Belgian natural waters (rivers and groundwater) to have the lowest water quality of the 122 countries studied.[39] In the 2006 pilot Environmental Performance Index, Belgium scored 75.9% for overall environmental performance and was ranked lowest of the EU member countries, though it was only 39th of 133 countries.[40]

Provinces

The territory of Belgium is divided into three Regions, two of which, the Flemish Region and Walloon Region, are in turn subdivided into provinces; the third Region, the Brussels Capital Region, is neither a province nor a part of a province.
Province Dutch name French name German name Capital Largest city Area
(km²)
Population
(1 January 2013)
Antwerp Antwerpen Anvers Antwerpen Antwerp
(Dutch: Antwerpen)
(French: Anvers)
Antwerp
(Dutch: Antwerpen)
(French: Anvers)
2,860 1,793,377
East Flanders Oost-Vlaanderen Flandre-Orientale Ostflandern Ghent
(Dutch: Gent)
(French: Gand)
Ghent
(Dutch: Gent)
(French: Gand)
2,982 1,460,944
Flemish Brabant Vlaams-Brabant Brabant flamand Flämisch Brabant Leuven
(French: Louvain)
Leuven
(French: Louvain)
2,106 1,101,280
Hainaut Henegouwen Hainaut Hennegau Mons
(Dutch: Bergen)
Charleroi 3,800 1,328,760
Liège Luik Liège Lüttich Liège
(Dutch: Luik)
(German: Lüttich)
Liège
(Dutch: Luik)
(German: Lüttich)
3,844 1,087,729
Limburg Limburg Limbourg Limburg Hasselt Hasselt 2,414 853,239
Luxembourg Luxemburg Luxembourg Luxemburg Arlon
(Dutch: Aarlen)
(German: Arel)
Arlon
(Dutch: Aarlen)
(German: Arel)
4,443 275,594
Namur Namen Namur Namur Namur
(Dutch: Namen)
Namur
(Dutch: Namen)
3,664 482,451
Walloon Brabant Waals-Brabant Brabant wallon Wallonisch Brabant Wavre
(Dutch: Waver)
Braine-l'Alleud
(Dutch: Eigenbrakel)
1,093 388,526
West Flanders West-Vlaanderen Flandre-Occidentale Westflandern Bruges
(Dutch: Brugge)
(French: Bruges)
(German: Brügge)
Bruges
(Dutch: Brugge)
(French: Bruges)
(German: Brügge)
3,151 1,173,019

Politics

Philippe
King since 2013

Belgium is a constitutional, popular monarchy and a federal parliamentary democracy. The bicameral federal parliament is composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Representatives. The former is made up of 50 senators appointed by the parliaments of the communities and regions and 10 co-opted senators. Prior to 2014, most of the Senate's members were directly elected. The Chamber's 150 representatives are elected under a proportional voting system from 11 electoral districts. Belgium has compulsory voting and thus maintains one of the highest rates of voter turnout in the world.[41]

The King (currently Philippe) is the head of state, though with limited prerogatives. He appoints ministers, including a Prime Minister, that have the confidence of the Chamber of Representatives to form the federal government. The Council of Ministers is composed of no more than fifteen members. With the possible exception of the Prime Minister, the Council of Ministers is composed of an equal number of Dutch-speaking members and French-speaking members.[42] The judicial system is based on civil law and originates from the Napoleonic code. The Court of Cassation is the court of last resort, with the Court of Appeal one level below.[43]

Political culture

Belgium's political institutions are complex;

General
  • Official site of Belgian monarchy
  • Official site of the Belgian federal government
Government

External links


  • [Also editions [1913], London, OCLC 29072911; (1921) D. Unwin and Co., New York OCLC 9625246 also published (1921) as Belgium from the Roman invasion to the present day, The Story of the nations, 67, T. Fisher Unwin, London, OCLC 2986704]
  • Facsimile reprint of a 1902 edition by the author, London
    Facsimile reprint of a 1909 edition by the author, London
  • (Several editions in English, incl. (1997) 7th ed.)
Bibliography
  • (mentioning other original sources)
  • Belgium entry at The World Factbook Retrieved on 7 June 2007.
  • —Reflections on nations and nation-state developments regarding Belgium
Online sources
  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
    *
    *
    *
    *
  7. ^ The German-speaking Community at Belgium.be
  8. ^ a b The (original) version in German language (already) mentions 73,000 instead of 71,500 inhabitants.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ —The book reviewer, Haß, attributes the expression in English to James Howell in 1640. Howell's original phrase "the cockpit of Christendom" became modified afterwards, as shown by:
    * —and as such coined for Belgium:
    * (See also The Nuttall Encyclopaedia)
  12. ^ a b c d
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Footnote: The Celtic and/or Germanic influences on and origin(s) of the Belgae remains disputed. Further reading e.g.
  18. ^ a b
    Ib. e-book (2004) NetLibrary, Boulder, Colorado, United States, ISBN 0-8204-7283-2 [Also print edition (ISBNDB.com 2004-06-30) or (Peterlang.com 2005), ISBN 0-8204-7647-1]
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ The River Congo: The Discovery, Exploration and Exploitation of the World's Most Dramatic Rivers," Harper & Row, (1977). ISBN Forbath, Peter, p. 278.
  26. ^
  27. ^ Ramon Arango, Leopold III and the Belgian royal question, The Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1961, p. 108.
  28. ^
  29. ^ a b c
  30. ^ (Dutch) Geografische beschrijving van België – Over Belgie – Portaal Belgische Overheid. Belgium.be. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ (direct: Final Revised Paper)
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ Takhtajan, Armen, 1986. Floristic Regions of the World. (translated by T.J. Crovello and A. Cronquist). University of California Press, Berkeley.
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ Pilot 2006 Environmental Performance Index – Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy and Columbia University Center for International Earth Science Information Network
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^ a b
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^ ElAmin, Ahmed (31 January 2006) Belgium, Netherlands meat sectors face dioxin crisis. foodproductiondaily.com
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^ The article shows an example of Belgium's recent African policies.
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^ a b
  59. ^ CNN.com, "Belgium Prime Minister offers resignation over banking deal"
  60. ^ Belgian king asks Van Rompuy to form government Reuters
  61. ^
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^
  65. ^
  66. ^ a b Fitzmaurice (1996), p. 31
  67. ^ a b
  68. ^
  69. ^
  70. ^ Fitzmaurice (1996), p. 121
  71. ^ Fitzmaurice (1996), p. 122
  72. ^ a b
  73. ^
  74. ^
  75. ^
  76. ^
  77. ^
  78. ^
  79. ^
  80. ^
  81. ^ David Isby and Charles Kamps Jr, 'Armies of NATO's Central Front,' Jane's Publishing Company, 1985, p.59
  82. ^ Belgium ranked first in the KOF Globalization Index 2009
  83. ^
  84. ^
  85. ^
  86. ^
  87. ^
  88. ^
  89. ^
  90. ^
  91. ^
  92. ^
  93. ^
  94. ^
  95. ^
  96. ^
  97. ^
  98. ^ a b
  99. ^
  100. ^ Another comparative study on transportation in Belgium:
  101. ^
  102. ^
  103. ^ (*) Free abstract for pay-per-view article by
  104. ^
  105. ^
  106. ^
  107. ^
  108. ^
  109. ^
  110. ^
  111. ^ . (Retrieved 10 November 2011)
  112. ^ . (Retrieved 10 November 2011)
  113. ^ Belgaqua:Aperçu des Structures de Gestion du Secteur de l'Eau Potable en Belgiuqe, 2001, p. 8
  114. ^
  115. ^
  116. ^
  117. ^ This number evolved to 89% in 2011.
  118. ^
  119. ^ De vreemde bevolking. ecodata.mineco.fgov.be
  120. ^ L'IMMIGRATION EN BELGIQUE. EFFECTIFS, MOUVEMENTS. ET MARCHE DU TRAVAIL. Rapport 2009. Direction générale Emploi et marché du travai
  121. ^
  122. ^ a b c d e BuG 155 – Bericht uit het Gewisse – 01 januari 2012. npdata.be (1 January 2012).
  123. ^ a b BuG 159 – Bericht uit het Gewisse – 7 mei 2012. npdata.be (7 May 2012).
  124. ^ a b Voor het eerst meer Marokkaanse dan Italiaanse migranten. hbvl.be. 21 May 2007
  125. ^
  126. ^
  127. ^ —Strictly, the capital is the municipality (City of) Brussels, though the Brussels-Capital Region might be intended because of its name and also its other municipalities housing institutions typical for a capital.
  128. ^
  129. ^
  130. ^
  131. ^ According to Le Petit Larousse, Walloon is a dialect of the langue d'oïl. According to the Meyers grosses Taschenlexikon
  132. ^
  133. ^ a b Among Belgium native German speakers many are familiar with the local dialect varieties of their region, that include dialects that spill over into neighboring Luxembourg and Germany. (Online version: Sixteenth edition)
  134. ^ Extracts: p. 97, p. 105
  135. ^
  136. ^
  137. ^
  138. ^
  139. ^
  140. ^ See for example Belgium entry of the Catholic Encyclopedia
  141. ^ a b c
  142. ^
  143. ^ Kerken lopen zeer geleidelijk helemaal leeg – Dutch news article describing church attendance in Flanders. Standaard.be (25 November 2010). Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  144. ^
  145. ^ Ghiuzeli, Haim F. The Jewish Community of Antwerp, Belgium. Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People
  146. ^ Inquiry by 'Vepec', 'Vereniging voor Promotie en Communicatie' (Organization for Promotion and Communication), published in Knack magazine 22 November 2006 p. 14 [The Dutch language term 'gelovig' is in the text translated as 'religious'. More precisely it is a very common word for believing in particular in any kind of God in a monotheistic sense, or in some afterlife], or both.
  147. ^
  148. ^
  149. ^
  150. ^
  151. ^ a b c The question asked was "Do you consider yourself to be...?" With a card showing: Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Other Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, and Non-believer/Agnostic. Space was given for Other (SPONTANEOUS) and DK. Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu did not reach the 1% threshold.
  152. ^ a b c
  153. ^
  154. ^
  155. ^
  156. ^
  157. ^
  158. ^
  159. ^ Several examples of major architectural realizations in Belgium belong to UNESCO's World Heritage List:
  160. ^
  161. ^
  162. ^
  163. ^ —A general presentation of the Flemish artistic movement with a list of its artists, linking to their biographies and artworks
  164. ^ —List of Belgian painters, linking to their biographies and artworks
  165. ^
  166. ^ Brussels, capital of Art Nouveau (page 1), (for example)
  167. ^
  168. ^
  169. ^ Two comprehensive discussions of rock and pop music in Belgium since the 1950s:

  170. ^
  171. ^ A review of the Belgian cinema till about 2000 can be found at
  172. ^
  173. ^
  174. ^
  175. ^
  176. ^ Republished from
  177. ^ Republished from
  178. ^ —Note: Contrarily to what the text suggests, the season starts as early as July and lasts through April.
  179. ^
  180. ^
  181. ^
  182. ^
  183. ^
  184. ^
  185. ^
  186. ^
  187. ^
  188. ^
  189. ^
  190. ^ "Goalkeeping Greats" Goalkeepersaredifferent.com. Retrieved on 29 June 2008
  191. ^

References

  1. ^ Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many international organizations, including UNIDO, UNMIK, UNMOGIP, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, WADB (non-regional), WEU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO, ZC.
  2. ^ The Constitution set out seven institutions each of which can have a parliament, government and administration. In fact there are only six such bodies because the Flemish Region merged into the Flemish Community. This single Flemish body thus exercises powers about Community matters in the bilingual area of Brussels-Capital and in the Dutch language area, while about Regional matters only in Flanders.
  3. ^ The richest (per capita income) of Belgium's three regions is the Flemish Region, followed by the Walloon Region and lastly the Brussels-Capital Region. The ten municipalities with the highest reported income are: Laethem-Saint-Martin, Keerbergen, Lasne, Oud-Heverlee, Hove, De Pinte, Meise, Knokke-Heist, Bierbeek.
  4. ^ Native speakers of Dutch living in Wallonia and of French in Flanders are relatively small minorities that furthermore largely balance one another, hence attributing all inhabitants of each unilingual area to the area's language can cause only insignificant inaccuracies (99% can speak the language). Dutch: Flanders' 6.079 million inhabitants and about 15% of Brussels' 1.019 million are 6.23 million or 59.3% of the 10.511 million inhabitants of Belgium (2006); German: 70,400 in the German-speaking Community (which has language facilities for its less than 5% French-speakers) and an estimated 20,000–25,000 speakers of German in the Walloon Region outside the geographical boundaries of their official Community, or 0.9%; French: in the latter area as well as mainly in the rest of Wallonia (3.414 − 0.093 = 3.321 million) and 85% of the Brussels inhabitants (0.866 million) thus 4.187 million or 39.8%; together indeed 100%.
  5. ^ Flemish Academic Eric Corijn (initiator of Charta 91), at a colloquium regarding Brussels, on 2001-12-05, states that in Brussels 91% of the population speaks French at home, either alone or with another language, and about 20% speaks Dutch at home, either alone (9%) or with French (11%)—After ponderation, the repartition can be estimated at between 85 and 90% French-speaking, and the remaining are Dutch-speaking, corresponding to the estimations based on languages chosen in Brussels by citizens for their official documents (ID, driving licenses, weddings, birth, sex, and so on); all these statistics on language are also available at Belgian Department of Justice (for weddings, birth, sex), Department of Transport (for Driving licenses), Department of Interior (for IDs), because there are no means to know precisely the proportions since Belgium has abolished 'official' linguistic censuses, thus official documents on language choices can only be estimations. For a web source on this topic, see e.g. General online sources: Janssens, Rudi
  6. ^ Notable Belgian films based on works by Flemish authors include: De Witte (author Ernest Claes) movie by Jan Vanderheyden and Edith Kiel in 1934, remake as De Witte van Sichem directed by Robbe De Hert in 1980; De man die zijn haar kort liet knippen (Johan Daisne) André Delvaux 1965; Mira ('De teleurgang van de Waterhoek' by Stijn Streuvels) Fons Rademakers 1971; Malpertuis (aka The Legend of Doom House) (Jean Ray [pen name of Flemish author who mainly wrote in French, or as John Flanders in Dutch]) Harry Kümel 1971; De loteling (Hendrik Conscience) Roland Verhavert 1974; Dood van een non (Maria Rosseels) Paul Collet and Pierre Drouot 1975; Pallieter (Felix Timmermans) Roland Verhavert 1976; De komst van Joachim Stiller (Hubert Lampo) Harry Kümel 1976; De Leeuw van Vlaanderen (Hendrik Conscience) Hugo Claus (a famous author himself) 1985; Daens ('Pieter Daens' by Louis Paul Boon) Stijn Coninx 1992; see also les DVD!s de la cinémathèqueFilmarchief (in Dutch). Retrieved on 7 June 2007.
  7. ^ The Dutch word 'ommegang' is here used in the sense of an entirely or mainly non-religious procession, or the non-religious part thereof—see also its article on the Dutch-language WorldHeritage; the Processional Giants of Brussels, Dendermonde and Mechelen mentioned in this paragraph are part of each city's 'ommegang'. The French word 'ducasse' refers also to a procession; the mentioned Processional Giants of Ath and Mons are part of each city's 'ducasse'.

Notes

See also

Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin both were Player of the Year in the Women's Tennis Association as they were ranked the number one female tennis player. The Spa-Francorchamps motor-racing circuit hosts the Formula One World Championship Belgian Grand Prix. The Belgian driver, Jacky Ickx, won eight Grands Prix and six 24 Hours of Le Mans and finished twice as runner-up in the Formula One World Championship. Belgium also has a strong reputation in motocross.[191] Sporting events annually held in Belgium include the Memorial Van Damme athletics competition, the Belgian Grand Prix Formula One, and a number of classic cycle races such as the Tour of Flanders and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. The 1920 Summer Olympics were held in Antwerp. The 1977 European Basketball Championship was held in Liège and Ostend.

Belgians hold the most Tour de France victories of any country except France. They have also the most victories on the UCI Road World Championships. Philippe Gilbert is the 2012 world champion. Another modern well-known Belgian cyclist is Tom Boonen. With five victories in the Tour de France and numerous other cycling records, Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx is regarded as one of the greatest cyclists of all time.[189] Jean-Marie Pfaff, a former Belgian goalkeeper, is considered one of the greatest in the history of soccer.[190] Belgium hosted the 1972 European Football Championships, and co-hosted the 2000 European Championships with the Netherlands. The current Belgium soccer team starring a range of Premier League soccer players such as Adnan Januzaj, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany and Marouane Fellaini had qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and reached the quarter finals before losing 0–1 to Argentina.

Eddy Merckx, regarded as one of the greatest cyclists of all time

Since the 1970s, sports clubs and federations are organized separately within each language community.[186] Association football (soccer) is one of the most popular sports in both parts of Belgium, together with cycling, tennis, swimming, judo[187] and basketball.[188]

The Red Devils, Belgium's national football team, in 2013

Sports

Brands of Belgian chocolate and pralines, like Côte d'Or, Neuhaus, Leonidas and Godiva are famous, as well as independent producers such as Burie and Del Rey in Antwerp and Mary's in Brussels.[179] Belgium produces over 1100 varieties of beer.[180][181] The Trappist beer of the Abbey of Westvleteren has repeatedly been rated the world's best beer.[182][183][184] The biggest brewer in the world by volume is Anheuser-Busch InBev, based in Leuven.[185]

Many highly ranked Belgian restaurants can be found in the most influential restaurant guides, such as the Michelin Guide.[175] Belgium is famous for beer, chocolate, waffles and french fries with mayonnaise. Contrary to their name, french fries are claimed to have originated in Belgium, although their exact place of origin is uncertain. The national dishes are "steak and fries with salad", and "mussels with fries".[176][177][178]

Moules-frites / mosselen-friet is the national dish of Belgium

Cuisine

Other examples are the Carnival of Aalst; the still very religious processions of the Holy Blood in Bruges, Virga Jesse Basilica in Hasselt and Basilica of Our Lady of Hanswijk in Mechelen; 15 August festival in Liège; and the Walloon festival in Namur. Originated in 1832 and revived in the 1960s, the Gentse Feesten have become a modern tradition. A major non-official holiday is the Saint Nicholas Day, a festivity for children and, in Liège, for students.[174]

Folklore plays a major role in Belgium's cultural life: the country has a comparatively high number of processions, cavalcades, parades, 'ommegangs' and 'ducasses',[nb 7] 'kermesse' and other local festivals, nearly always with an originally religious or mythological background. The Carnival of Binche with its famous Gilles and the 'Processional Giants and Dragons' of Ath, Brussels, Dendermonde, Mechelen and Mons are recognized by UNESCO as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.[173]

The Gilles of Binche, in costume, wearing wax masks

Folklore

Belgian cinema has brought a number of mainly Flemish novels to life on-screen.[nb 6] Other Belgian directors include André Delvaux, Stijn Coninx, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne; well-known actors include Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jan Decleir and Marie Gillain; and successful films include Bullhead, Man Bites Dog and The Alzheimer Affair.[171] In the 1980s, Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts produced important fashion trendsetters, known as the Antwerp Six.[172]

The Suzanne Lilar, Hugo Claus, Joseph Weterings and Amélie Nothomb. The poet and playwright Maurice Maeterlinck won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1911. The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé is the best known of Franco-Belgian comics, but many other major authors, including Peyo (The Smurfs), André Franquin (Gaston Lagaffe), Dupa (Cubitus), Morris (Lucky Luke), Greg (Achille Talon), Lambil (Les Tuniques Bleues), Edgar P. Jacobs and Willy Vandersteen brought the Belgian cartoon strip industry a worldwide fame.[170]

Jacques Brel, 1963

Belgian contributions to architecture also continued into the 19th and 20th centuries, including the work of Victor Horta and Henry van de Velde, who were major initiators of the Art Nouveau style.[166][167]

During the 19th and 20th centuries many original romantic, expressionist and surrealist Belgian painters emerged, including James Ensor and other artists belonging to the Les XX group, Constant Permeke, Paul Delvaux and René Magritte. The avant-garde CoBrA movement appeared in the 1950s, while the sculptor Panamarenko remains a remarkable figure in contemporary art.[164][165] Multidisciplinary artists Jan Fabre, Wim Delvoye and the painters Guy Huygens and Luc Tuymans are other internationally renowned figures on the contemporary art scene.

Contributions to painting and architecture have been especially rich. The Mosan art, the Early Netherlandish,[157] the Flemish Renaissance and Baroque painting[158] and major examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture[159] are milestones in the history of art. While the 15th century's art in the Low Countries is dominated by the religious paintings of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, the 16th century is characterized by a broader panel of styles such as Peter Breughel's landscape paintings and Lambert Lombard's representation of the antique.[160] Though the Baroque style of Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck flourished in the early 17th century in the Southern Netherlands,[161] it gradually declined thereafter.[162][163]

The Ghent Altarpiece: The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (interior view), painted 1432 by van Eyck

Fine arts

[156] Despite its

Culture

Healthcare in Belgium is financed through both social security contributions and taxation. Health insurance is compulsory. Health care is delivered by a mixed public and private system of independent medical practitioners and public, university- and semi-private hospitals. Health care service are payable by the patient and reimbursed later by health insurance institutions, but for eliligible categories (of patients and services) so-called 3rd party payment systems exist.[152] Belgian health care system is supervied and financed by the federal government, the Flemish and Walloon Regional gouvernments and the German Community also have an (indirect) oversight and responsibilities.[152]

The Belgians are known to be favored with good health. According to 2012 estimates, the average life expectancy is 79.65 years.[29] Since 1960, life expectancy has, in line with the European average, grown by two months per year. Death in Belgium is mainly due to heart and vascular disorders, neoplasms, disorders of the respiratory system and unnatural causes of death (accidents, suicide). Non-natural causes of death and cancer are the most common causes of death for females up to age 24 and males up to age 44.[152]

Health

According to new polls about Religiosity in the European Union in 2012 by Eurobarometer found that Christianity is the largest religion in Belgium accounting 65% of Belgians.[151] Catholics are the largest Christian group in Belgium, accounting for 58% of Belgium citizens,[151] while Protestants make up 2%, and Other Christian make up 5%. Non believer/Agnostic account 20%, Atheist account's 7%, and Muslim 5%.[151]

According to the Eurobarometer Poll in 2010, 37% of Belgian citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", whereas 31% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 27% that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force".[150]

A 2008 estimate found[147] that 6% of the Belgian population, about 628,751, is Muslim (98% Sunni), while a 2011 estimate claims 1,000,000 inhabitants of Muslim background in the country.[148] Muslims constitute 22.0%[149] of the population of Brussels, 4.0% of Wallonia and 3.9% of Flanders. The majority of Belgian Muslims live in the major cities, such as Antwerp, Brussels and Charleroi. The largest group of immigrants in Belgium are Moroccans, with 400,000[122] people. The Turks are the third largest group, and the second largest Muslim ethnic group, numbering 220,000.[122][124]

A 2006 inquiry in Flanders, considered to be a more religious region than Wallonia, showed that 55% considered themselves religious and that 36% believed that God created the universe.[146] On the other hand, Wallonia has become one of Europe's most secular/least religious regions. Most of the French-speaking region's population does not consider religion an important part of their lives, and as much as 45% of the population identifies as irreligious. This is particularly the case in eastern Wallonia and areas along the French border.

In the early 2000s there were approximately 42,000 Jews in Belgium. The Jewish Community of Antwerp (numbering some 18,000) is one of the largest in Europe, and one of the last places in the world where Yiddish is the primary language of a large Jewish community (mirroring certain Orthodox and Hassidic communities in New York and Israel). In addition most Jewish children in Antwerp receive a Jewish education.[145] There are several Jewish newspapers and more than 45 active synagogues (30 of which are in Antwerp) in the country.

Symbolically and materially, the Roman Catholic Church remains in a favourable position.[141] Belgium has three officially recognized religions: Christianity (Catholic, Protestantism, Orthodoxy and Anglicanism), Islam and Judaism.[144]

Roman Catholicism has traditionally been Belgium's majority religion; being especially strong in Flanders. However, by 2009 Sunday church attendance was 5% for Belgium in total; 3% in Brussels,[142] and 5.4% in Flanders. Church attendance in 2009 in Belgium was roughly half of the Sunday church attendance in 1998 (11% for the total of Belgium in 1998).[143] Despite the drop in church attendance, Catholic identity nevertheless remains an important part of Belgium's culture.[141]

Since the country's independence, Roman Catholicism, counterbalanced by strong freethought movements, has had an important role in Belgium's politics.[140] However Belgium is largely a secular country as the laicist constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right in practice. During the reigns of Albert I and Baudouin, the monarchy had a reputation of deeply rooted Catholicism.[141]

Religion

[139] Mirroring the dual structure of the 19th-century Belgian political landscape, characterized by the

[138] Among [134] Education is compulsory from 6 to 18 years of age for Belgians.

Education

Both Belgian Dutch and Belgian French have minor differences in vocabulary and semantic nuances from the varieties spoken respectively in the Netherlands and France. Many Flemish people still speak dialects of Dutch in their local environment. Walloon, considered either as a dialect of French or a distinct Romance language,[131][132] is now only understood and spoken occasionally, mostly by elderly people. Walloon is the name collectively given to four French dialects spoken in Belgium. Wallonia's dialects, along with those of Picard,[133] are not used in public life and have been replaced by French.

Total Dutch speakers are 6.23 million, concentrated in the northern Flanders region, while French speakers number 3.32 million in Wallonia and an estimated 870,000 (or 85%) in the officially bilingual Brussels-Capital Region.[nb 5][127] The German-speaking Community is made up of 73,000 people in the east of the Walloon Region; around 10,000 German and 60,000 Belgian nationals are speakers of German. Roughly 23,000 more German speakers live in municipalities near the official Community.[8][128][129][130]

Belgium has three official languages, which are (in order of size of the native speaking population of Belgium) Dutch, French and German. A number of non-official minority languages are spoken as well.[125] As no census exists, there are no official statistical data regarding the distribution or usage of Belgium's three official languages or their dialects.[126] However, various criteria, including the language(s) of parents, of education, or the second-language status of foreign born, may provide suggested figures. An estimated 60% of the Belgian population speaks Dutch (often referred to as Flemish), and 40% of the population speaks French. French-speaking Belgians are often referred to as Walloons, although the French speakers in Brussels are not Walloons.[nb 4]

Bilingual signs in Brussels
Distribution of languages of Belgium
Dutch (Flemish)
  
59%
French
  
40%
German
  
1%

Languages

At the beginning of 2012, people of foreign background and their descendants were estimated to have formed around 25% of the total population i.e. 2.8 million new Belgians.[122] Of these new Belgians, 1,200,000 are of European ancestry and 1,350,000[123] are from non-Western countries (most of them from Morocco, Turkey, and the DR Congo). Since the modification of the Belgian nationality law in 1984 more than 1.3 million migrants have acquired Belgian citizenship. The largest group of immigrants and their descendants in Belgium are Moroccans, with more than 450,000[122] people. The Turks are the third largest group, and the second largest Muslim ethnic group, numbering 220,000.[122][124] 89.2% of inhabitants of Turkish origin have been naturalized, as have 88.4% of people of Moroccan background, 75.4% of Italians, 56.2% of the French and 47.8% of Dutch people.[123]

As of 2007, nearly 92% of the population had Belgian citizenship,[117] and other European Union member citizens account for around 6%. The prevalent foreign nationals were Italian (171,918), French (125,061), Dutch (116,970), Moroccan (80,579), Portuguese (43,509), Spanish (42,765), Turkish (39,419) and German (37,621).[118][119] In 2007, there were 1.38 million foreign-born residents in Belgium, corresponding to 12.9% of the total population. Of these, 685,000 (6.4%) were born outside the EU and 695,000 (6.5%) were born in another EU Member State.[120][121]

Almost all of the Belgian population is urban—97% in 2004.[114] The population density of Belgium is 365 per square kilometre (952 per square mile) as of March 2013. The most densely inhabited area is Flanders.[115] The Ardennes have the lowest density. As of 2012, the Flemish Region had a population of 6,350,765, its most populous cities being Antwerp (502,604), Ghent (248,242) and Bruges (117,170). Wallonia had 3,546,329 with Charleroi (203,871), Liège (195,576) and Namur (110,096), its most populous cities. Brussels has 1,138,854 inhabitants in the Capital Region's 19 municipalities, three of which have over 100,000 residents.[116]

Brussels, the capital city and largest metropolitan area of Belgium.

Demographics

Belgian water and sanitation sector recognizes the basic right to water. The Walloon and Brussels Regions have set up Social Funds for Water, which provide financial support to people having difficulties to pay their water bill, while in Flanders everyone has the right to a minimal supply of 15 m³ (41 liter/capita/day) of free water per person per year.

Belgium has more than 62 water supply utilities, including 2 regional, 30 inter-municipal and 30 municipal utilities. Another 100 mostly small municipalities provide services directly without having a legally of financially separate entity for water supply.[113] Water is not scarce and water supply is generally continuous and of good quality. However, wastewater treatment has long lagged behind and Brussels only achieved full treatment of its wastewater in 2007.

Water supply and sanitation

Three Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine were awarded to Belgians: Jules Bordet (Université libre de Bruxelles) in 1919, Corneille Heymans (University of Ghent) in 1938 and Albert Claude (Université Libre de Bruxelles) together with Christian de Duve (Université Catholique de Louvain) in 1974. François Englert (Université Libre de Bruxelles) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013. Ilya Prigogine (Université Libre de Bruxelles) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977.[110] Two Belgian mathematicians have been awarded the Fields Medal: Pierre Deligne in 1978 and Jean Bourgain in 1994.[111][112]

Chemist Catholic University of Leuven), who is credited with proposing the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe in 1927.[109]

Contributions to the development of science and technology have appeared throughout the country's history. The 16th century Early Modern flourishing of Western Europe included cartographer Gerardus Mercator, anatomist Andreas Vesalius, herbalist Rembert Dodoens[101][102][103][104] and mathematician Simon Stevin among the most influential scientists.[105]

Science and technology

Belgium experiences some of the most congested traffic in Europe. In 2010, commuters to the cities of Brussels and Antwerp spent respectively 65 and 64 hours a year in traffic jams.[99] Like in most small European countries, more than 80% of the airways traffic is handled by a single airport, the Brussels Airport. The ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge share more than 80% of Belgian maritime traffic, Antwerp being the second European harbour with a gross weight of goods handled of 115 988 000 t in 2000 after a growth of 10.9% over the preceding five years.[98][100]

Despite an 18% decrease observed from 1970 to 1999, Belgium still had in 1999 the highest rail network density within the European Union with 113.8 km/1 000 km2. On the other hand, the same period of time, 1970–1999, has seen a huge growth (+56%) of the motorway network. In 1999, the density of km motorways per 1000 km2 and 1000 inhabitants amounted to 55.1 and 16.5 respectively and were significantly superior to the EU's means of 13.7 and 15.9.[98]

By the end of the 1980s, Belgian macroeconomic policies had resulted in a cumulative government debt of about 120% of GDP. As of 2006, the budget was balanced and public debt was equal to 90.30% of GDP.[95] In 2005 and 2006, real GDP growth rates of 1.5% and 3.0%, respectively, were slightly above the average for the Euro area. Unemployment rates of 8.4% in 2005 and 8.2% in 2006 were close to the area average. By October 2010, this had grown to 8.5% compared to an average rate of 9.6% for the European Union as a whole (EU 27).[96][97] From 1832 until 2002, Belgium's currency was the Belgian franc. Belgium switched to the euro in 2002, with the first sets of euro coins being minted in 1999. The standard Belgian euro coins designated for circulation show the portrait of the monarch (first King Albert II, since 2013 King Philippe).

After World War II, Ghent and Antwerp experienced a rapid expansion of the chemical and petroleum industries. The 1973 and 1979 oil crises sent the economy into a recession; it was particularly prolonged in Wallonia, where the steel industry had become less competitive and experienced serious decline.[93] In the 1980s and 1990s, the economic centre of the country continued to shift northwards and is now concentrated in the populous Flemish Diamond area.[94]

Belgium was the first continental European country to undergo the Industrial Revolution, in the early 19th century.[88] Liège and Charleroi rapidly developed mining and steelmaking, which flourished until the mid-20th century in the Sambre and Meuse valley and made Belgium among one of the three most industrialized nations in the world from 1830 to 1910.[89][90] However, by the 1840s the textile industry of Flanders was in severe crisis, and the region experienced famine from 1846 to 1850.[91][92]

Steelmaking along the Meuse River at Ougrée, near Liège.

The Belgian economy is heavily service-oriented and shows a dual nature: a dynamic Flemish economy and a Walloon economy that lags behind.[12][86][nb 3] One of the founding members of the European Union, Belgium strongly supports an open economy and the extension of the powers of EU institutions to integrate member economies. Since 1922, through the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union, Belgium and Luxembourg have been a single trade market with customs and currency union.[87]

Belgium's strongly globalized economy[82] and its transport infrastructure are integrated with the rest of Europe. Its location at the heart of a highly industrialized region helped make it the world's 15th largest trading nation in 2007.[83][84] The economy is characterized by a highly productive work force, high GNP and high exports per capita.[85] Belgium's main imports are raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, and oil products. Its main exports are machinery and equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, and foodstuffs.[29]

Belgium is part of a monetary union, the eurozone (dark blue), and of the EU single market.

Economy

The effects of the Second World War made collective security a priority for Belgian foreign policy. In March 1948 Belgium signed the Treaty of Brussels, and then joined NATO in 1948. However the integration of the armed forces into NATO did not begin until after the Korean War.[81] The Belgians, along with the Luxembourg government, sent a detachment of battalion strength to fight in Korea known as the Belgian United Nations Command. This mission was the first in a long line of UN missions which the Belgians supported. Currently, the Belgian Naval Component is working closely together with the Dutch Navy under the command of the Admiral Benelux.

The Belgian Armed Forces have about 47,000 active troops. In 2010, Belgium's defence budget totaled €3.95 billion (representing 1.12% of its GDP).[79] They are organized into one unified structure which consists of four main components: Land Component, or the Army; Air Component, or the Air Force; Naval Component, or the Navy; Medical Component. The operational commands of the four components are subordinate to the Staff Department for Operations and Training of the Ministry of Defence, which is headed by the Assistant Chief of Staff Operations and Training, and to the Chief of Defence.[80]

Armed forces

In several fields, the different levels each have their own say on specifics. With education, for instance, the autonomy of the Communities neither includes decisions about the compulsory aspect nor allows for setting minimum requirements for awarding qualifications, which remain federal matters.[72] Each level of government can be involved in scientific research and international relations associated with its powers. The treaty-making power of the Regions' and Communities' Governments is the broadest of all the Federating units of all the Federations all over the world.[76][77][78]

Regions have authority in fields that can be broadly associated with their territory. These include economy, employment, agriculture, water policy, housing, public works, energy, transport, the environment, town and country planning, nature conservation, credit and foreign trade. They supervise the provinces, municipalities and intercommunal utility companies.[75]

Communities exercise their authority only within linguistically determined geographical boundaries, originally oriented towards the individuals of a Community's language: culture (including audiovisual media), education and the use of the relevant language. Extensions to personal matters less directly connected with language comprise health policy (curative and preventive medicine) and assistance to individuals (protection of youth, social welfare, aid to families, immigrant assistance services, and so on.).[74]

The Federal State's authority includes justice, defence, federal police, social security, nuclear energy, monetary policy and public debt, and other aspects of public finances. State-owned companies include the Belgian Post Group and Belgian Railways. The Federal Government is responsible for the obligations of Belgium and its federalized institutions towards the European Union and NATO. It controls substantial parts of public health, home affairs and foreign affairs.[72] The budget—without the debt—controlled by the federal government amounts to about 50% of the national fiscal income. The federal government employs around 12% of the civil servants.[73]

Locus of policy jurisdiction

The overlapping boundaries of the Regions and Communities have created two notable peculiarities: the territory of the Brussels-Capital Region (which came into existence nearly a decade after the other regions) is included in both the Flemish and French Communities, and the territory of the German-speaking Community lies wholly within the Walloon Region. Conflicts about jurisdiction between the bodies are resolved by the Constitutional Court of Belgium. The structure is intended as a compromise to allow different cultures to live together peacefully.[12]

The constitutional language areas determine the official languages in their municipalities, as well as the geographical limits of the empowered institutions for specific matters.[70] Although this would allow for seven parliaments and governments, when the Communities and Regions were created in 1980, Flemish politicians decided to merge both.[71] Thus the Flemings just have one single institutional body of parliament and government is empowered for all except federal and specific municipal matters.[nb 2]

  1. The federal government, based in Brussels.
  2. The three language communities:
  3. The three regions:

Based on the four language areas defined in 1962–63 (the Dutch, bilingual, French and German language areas), consecutive revisions of the country's constitution in 1970, 1980, 1988 and 1993 established a unique form of a federal state with segregated political power into three levels:[68][69]

While the people in Southern Belgium spoke French or dialects of French, and most Brusselers adopted French as their first language, the Flemings refused to do so and succeeded progressively in making Dutch an equal language in the education system.[66] Following World War II, Belgian politics became increasingly dominated by the autonomy of its two main linguistic communities.[67] Intercommunal tensions rose and the constitution was amended to minimise the potential for conflict.[67]

Following a usage which can be traced back to the Burgundian and Habsburgian courts,[64] in the 19th century it was necessary to speak French to belong to the governing upper class, and those who could only speak Dutch were effectively second-class citizens.[65] Late that century, and continuing into the 20th century, Flemish movements evolved to counter this situation.[66]

Regions:
  Flemish Region / Dutch language area
  Brussels-Capital Region / bilingual area
  Walloon Region / French and German language areas
Communities:
  Flemish Community / Dutch language area
  Flemish & French Community / bilingual language area
  French Community / French language area
  German-speaking Community / German language area

Communities and regions

The 2014 federal election (coinciding with the regional elections) resulted in a further electoral gain for the Flemish nationalist N-VA, although the incumbent coalition (composed of Flemish and French-speaking Social Democrats, Liberals, and Christian Democrats) maintains a solid majority in Parliament and in all electoral constituencies. On 22 July 2014, King Philippe nominated Charles Michel (MR) and Kris Peeters (CD&V) to lead the formation of a new federal cabinet composed of the Flemish parties N-VA, CD&V, Open Vld and the French-speaking MR, which resulted in the Michel Government. It is the first time N-VA is part of the federal cabinet, while the French-speaking side is represented only by the MR, which achieved a minority of the public votes in Wallonia.

The Parliamentary elections in Belgium on 13 June 2010 saw the Flemish nationalist N-VA become the largest party in Flanders, and the Socialist Party PS the largest party in Wallonia.[63] Until December 2011, Belgium was governed by Leterme's caretaker government awaiting the end of the deadlocked negotiations for formation of a new government. By 30 March 2011 this set a new world record for the elapsed time without an official government, previously held by war-torn Iraq. Finally, in December 2011 the Di Rupo Government led by Walloon socialist Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo was sworn in.

After Herman Van Rompuy was designated the first permanent President of the European Council on 19 November 2009, he offered the resignation of his government to King Albert II on 25 November 2009. A few hours later, the new government under Prime Minister Yves Leterme was sworn in. On 22 April 2010, Leterme again offered the resignation of his cabinet to the king[61] after one of the coalition partners, the OpenVLD, withdrew from the government, and on 26 April 2010 King Albert officially accepted the resignation.[62]

On that day a new government, led by Flemish Christian Democrat Yves Leterme, the actual winner of the federal elections of June 2007, was sworn in by the king. On 15 July 2008 Leterme announced the resignation of the cabinet to the king, as no progress in constitutional reforms had been made.[58] In December 2008 he once more offered his resignation to the king after a crisis surrounding the sale of Fortis to BNP Paribas.[59] At this juncture, his resignation was accepted and Christian Democratic and Flemish Herman Van Rompuy was sworn in as Prime Minister on 30 December 2008.[60]

Verhofstadt's coalition fared badly in the June 2007 elections. For more than a year, the country experienced a political crisis.[54] This crisis was such that many observers speculated on a possible partition of Belgium.[55][56][57] From 21 December 2007 until 20 March 2008 the temporary Verhofstadt III Government was in office. This coalition of the Flemish and Francophone Christian Democrats, the Flemish and Francophone Liberals together with the Francophone Social Democrats was an interim government until 20 March 2008.[58]

The government led by Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt from 1999 to 2007 achieved a balanced budget, some tax reforms, a labour-market reform, scheduled nuclear phase-out and instigated legislation allowing more stringent war crime and more lenient soft drug usage prosecution. Restrictions on withholding euthanasia were reduced and same-sex marriage legalized. The government promoted active diplomacy in Africa[52] and opposed the invasion of Iraq.[53]

A string of Christian Democrat coalition governments from 1958 was broken in 1999 after the first dioxin crisis, a major food contamination scandal.[47][48][49] A "rainbow coalition" emerged from six parties: the Flemish and the French-speaking Liberals, Social Democrats and Greens.[50] Later, a "purple coalition" of Liberals and Social Democrats formed after the Greens lost most of their seats in the 2003 election.[51]

[45], nationalist, or environmental themes and recently smaller ones of some specific liberal nature.linguistic Further notable parties came into being well after the middle of last century, mainly around [46].Social Democrats, and Liberals, Christian Democrats The major parties in each community, though close to the political centre, belong to three main groups: [45] have split into distinct components that mainly represent the political and linguistic interests of these communities.Belgian political parties Since around 1970, the significant national [44]